The Focus Of Our Generation
“The Focus of our Generation”
Matthew 5:13-16 (Salt & Light):
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its
stand, And it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good
deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Our society today is a good representative of a multi-cross section of different generational age groups. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Foundation survey, here are the different generations that make up our society today.
Generational Classification Years of coverage Silent Generation. 1925 - 1945 Baby Boomer Generation 1946 - 1964 Generation X 1965 - 1979 Millennial Generation 1980 - 1999 Generation Z 2000 - Present
The survey also concluded that each generation has a personality.
The silent generation is considered the traditionalist. They were expected to be seen but not heard.
You may say that the baby boomer is an idealist, influenced by Woodstock, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin L. King.
Generation X is the skeptical independent, shaped by Watergate and the Personal Computer.
Generation Y or Millennials is considered savvy and were defined by IPods & MySpace, A wired & connected world is all they have ever known, shaped by 9/11, texting, and the recession.
Generation Z on the other hand is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones, Tumbler, Instagram and Facebook.
God’s message this morning will be about the millennial generation and their focus. Millennials are the largest living generation in the U.S. about 80 million plus (the largest size in history.) Their presence is not only changing the workplace and the society we live in, but it's also influencing the church. This is important for the church to understand and embrace yesterday and not just today because many Millennials are leaving the church in droves. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that more than 25% of Millennials are not affiliated with any religious faith.
Like every other generation, Millennials displayed generalized and unique traits. Here are some of them.
- They are the most diversified generation because young people are more
tolerant of races and groups. - They are considered multitaskers extraordinaire. - They are more caring, community oriented and politically engaged than
previous generations. - Their main sources for news are television (65%) and the Internet (59%.) - They are never far away from their next text, with 80% sleeping with their cell
phone next to the bed or on it. - Many of them have grown up with parental support & encouragement and have
experienced relatively comfortable lifestyles. - Health trends indicate that Millennials could be the first generation in over a
century to see their lifespan level off and even decline. - Being a good parent and having a successful marriage are most important to
Additionally, there are a lot of stereotypes about Millennials. Some of you may agree with and some you may not, and some are facts but some can be disputed.
- They are dependent ... They are still living in their parents’ home because of the effects
of a debt driven society ...such as student loans and financial mismanagement.
- They are tech savvy. If you are struggling mastering technology or just using the
features on your smart phone ... find a millennial to help you.
- They don't commit. Whether its relationships, jobs, or living in the same place.
Millennials don't stay tied down for too long.
- Millennials want to change everything. Traditions don't mean much to them.
- They don't go to church. They don't value any one religion.
This last stereotype is the one that I will address the most this morning.
Is there truth to the statement that Millennials don't go to church, and do not value religion? If this is true, let us see if there are things we can do as a church to reverse this trend? According to the Pew Research Center survey "one in four is unaffiliated with any religion." Furthermore, according to the Barna Research group, 59% of Millennials who grew up a regular attending Christian have dropped out and 35% of them have an anti- church position, believing the church does more harm than good. The big question is why?
That being said let me share with you three points regarding this very important and critical issue about the Millennials.
A. REASONS WHY MILLENNIALS HAVE DROPPED OUT OF CHURCH
What is causing our young people to walk out of the church? I hate to tell you this, but it's not a one size fits all answer that I can give you because the reality is that there are various reasons as to why Millennials have left. But understanding some of the factors contributing as to why they are leaving church can get the ball rolling for us a church body, with God's might, be able to reverse the trend.
Here are some of the most common ones they expressed.
1) Nobody is listening to us.
Being heard & accepted are very important to us. Nobody cares what we think because we are never asked for our input on any decisions made by the church leadership. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?
2) We want to be mentored, not preached at.
Preaching just doesn't reach our generation like the way our parents and grandparents did. We have an abundance of resources at our disposal to help us find God and to learn what we need to know. We have podcasts, blogs, books, worship albums, videos at our fingertips. We access everything that is shared multiple times over social media. We crave for relationships because we are the generation with the highest percentage of fatherless homes. We are looking for people who are invested in our lives and our future. If we don't have real people who actually care about us in church then we might as well just listen to a Sunday sermon at home.
3) Preserving church traditions and ideals takes priority over preserving youth and young adults in the church.
Many churches have traditional practices, such as particular patterns of worship that developed over time. Deviations from such patterns are sometimes considered unacceptable. Majority of the older church members are more concerned about preserving the traditions and ideals of the church rather than focusing on our spiritual growth and preservation.
4) We want the church to talk to us about controversial issues because nobody else does.
We are making the biggest decisions of our entire lives regarding career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, and personal image. We desperately need someone to talk to us about these. No, we don't think that a sermon- series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to find a way for someone mature that can talk & show us a better way. We don't like how the world is telling us how to live, but we never hear from our church either.
5) Inconsistent Christian lifestyles (Hypocrisy)
There are so many “fake” Christians in church. Christian lip service does not cut it with us. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what supposedly mature adult Christians profess. We observe so many inconsistencies in their lives on a daily basis.
B. REVERSING THE TREND
How can churches reverse this trend of Millennials walking out of the church? Since they have an abundance of resources to help them find God; they claim that attending church no longer enables them to gain additional knowledge of God. It’s kind of like how things were in the past. When my kids Stacy & Mikey were young, my wife enrolled them for piano lessons every Saturday paying $80-$100 a month. Today you can find the same piano instructions on YouTube or DVD. Why then would we want to pay that amount and have to drive somewhere, when our kids can learn that at home? Similarly, exercise conscious people are purchasing home gym equipment because they feel that they could get a similar workout at home that they were getting at the gym. However, many successful gym memberships these days include things that you can’t get at home. Motivation from personal trainers, a variety of workout plans and classes and other things included in a regular membership. Essentially, the message from the gyms is ...we can give you more than what you are getting on your own at home. Can our church say something similar like...we can give you more than what you are personally getting at home in finding and knowing God through social media?
One millennial on this subject suggests “if you were to ask what the point of church is, and the best answer we could give is effective teaching, or worship – or even a very good purpose like helping people get close to God – then we’ve lost our imagination. We’ve lost something significant in our understanding of our being a body of Christ that is bringing God’s kingdom to earth.”
If it is simply about inward focus, how is the church growing me in Christ? How much am I learning about God in church? Yes I think that an argument can be made that a motivated follower of Christ can find those things at home in deep study of the Word of God.
The church does not simply exist to make individuals better followers of Jesus. That’s only a part of it. It also exists for reasons that stretch far beyond the personal ... the church exists to testify to a greater story proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ which is commissioned by God? Can millennials and every other generation embrace that vision? I think they can.
But before we get into that, let's look at verse 13 of our passage ...
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it
be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Jesus here is speaking in metaphor. Salt was used for flavoring, but also preserving in a society without freezers and refrigeration like in the Old Testament times. The metaphor was to be remembered by the early apostles and church leaders because their work must not grow stale. We all know that salt is not good for us when eaten in great quantity. But
let’s face it, if there isn’t salt on certain kind of food, it doesn’t taste good. We all need food, but chances are we are not going to eat them if they don’t taste good.
Could it be that church is often missing salt? But what is salt? What is the thing that is missing? Is it the flavor, or the preservation quality? Let’s first examine the preservation. Our wives believe in freezing food to preserve it. Preservation is a good thing. However there are members of churches out there that see preservation in a different light because they are trying so hard to preserve the ideals of the church from becoming un-necessary at the hands of the young incoming generation. I don’t mean that as an attack on traditions that emulate the teachings of the Bible. I just mean that to be a statement of priorities. Preserving the youth and young people should be the church’s priority over preserving its traditions. Every generation is going to do things differently hopefully through the mentorship and discipleship of the previous generation. Mentoring and discipling does not include “Do as I tell you and don’t change a thing.”
On the other hand, there is the flavor. There are some millennials who grew up in a time where there was something poisoning the flavor of worship in the church. It was not the guitars & drums, and it was not hymns. It was about contemporary worship versus traditional worship. Many people were and still are opinionated and concerned over worship styles and methods. I am in no way saying that those things aren’t important and that conversations about those subjects should not exist. I for one grew up in very conservative churches in the Philippines. I had grown to have a great appreciation for hymns. However I also must admit that there are times that I feel closer to God through praise songs as oppose to singing hymns.
The flavor Jesus is referring to does not come solely from the music styles and worship themes. It doesn’t come from just simply turning your church into a coffee house and playing contemporary music. Those are just cosmetics. There is another stereotype that suggests that young adults will only come and worship in a contemporary worship environment. Because of this, “modern churches” were established. Essentially, the main purpose was to retain young people by making the church cool once again for them to feel comfortable. But it hasn’t worked. It appears that the modern church has failed.
In light of the church being a salt of the earth, it has to have the following 3 areas ...
• The Heartbeat – The purpose and life of the church.
• The Muscle – What enables the church to live out its purpose?
• The Cosmetics – The visibility of the church, what everyone sees when you walk in or by a church.
Here’s what I believe is the major problem with churches today. Jesus gave the church a heartbeat: the great commission. This task to make disciples of all nations is why the church exists. It is its purpose. This is the flavor that Jesus was referring to. The muscle of the church is the means to accomplish this purpose. And the cosmetics of the church adapt to the different cultures and generations that it caters to.
However, through the years the church seems to have lost its heartbeat. Once it lost its heartbeat (making disciples of all nations) it became obsessed with itself. As a result the muscle of the church switched from an outward focused system set up to facilitate the accomplishment of the great commission to an inward focused system set up to keep the church members happy. The end result of this was churches cared very little about evangelizing and how they were perceived in their communities but instead focused on keeping one another happy. Without a heartbeat you can change your cosmetics all you want and you will end up with nothing more than Christianity that hardly resembles the world changing movement Jesus intended us to be ...it is one that is surely not salty. The cosmetics should be the result of having a heartbeat. They are not the thing that causes it. We can change them all we want but it won’t revive our church in the long run, keep our youth, or attract other people. But a church with a heart that beats for the broken and lives to share the gospel to its community and the world by acts of mercy, justice and service will no doubt be a relevant church that will always impact our community and the world for decades to come.
C. ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN TODAY’S SOCIETY
“What is the role of the church in today’s society? “ The answer is the same today as it was in the first century.
We may have ...
- more multi-functional devices (smartphone/smartwatch) - more digital technology (social media) - more modernization in a lot of areas - more new technology gadgets - more far advance ideas & programs
But ... we still have the same role as the early church had. The role of the church today is the same because the needs are the same since every society ...
- still needs God - still needs Jesus Christ - still needs the gift of the Holy Spirit - still needs the Bible - still needs to be covered by the blood of Christ - still needs to be forgiven of their sins - still needs to be added to the church - And still needs to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. “ (2 Peter 3:18)
Heaven’s expectation of the church for society in every age has not changed. The Bible still reveals the purposes and plans of God for the world from the beginning to the end of time.
The same is true with regard to the role of the church and what it should do for His glory. In serving its role to any generation, everything the church has been asked to do can be classified under one of these three categories.
1) Evangelism – To preach Christ. 2) Edification – To practice Christ. 3) Benevolence – To personify Christ.
The church is here to change society ... it is not here to be changed by society. Some things should never change.
1) The Bible is the all-inspired Word of God and should never be altered. 2) The will of God for the church in the first century is still the will of God for the
Church today. 3) The work of the church in the first century is the same work the church is to be
doing today. 4) The prescribed way in which the church worshipped God during the first
century is the prescribed way for the church to worship God today.
What I’ve been suggesting mostly has not been what can we do to retain our young adults and inspire others to come back, but what doesn’t work. Here are some of the important things that should be happening in every church of God here and abroad concerning millennials.
• The church should be actively listening to all its youth and young adults.
• The church should be involving all their youth and young adults.
• The church should be actively mentoring & befriending millennials in their church.
• The church must be more open-minded to millennials leading in different ways than traditional methods.
• The church leadership as well as all the mature Christians should strive to live impeccable consistent Christian lives wherein what they profess is evident and can be seen in their daily lives by everyone around them especially the Millennials.
• The church should take the time to analyze why their millennials who are staying active, remain that way.
• The church must go after the millennials they have lost if any.
Before I close, let me just say this to all of you with a lot of pride, boasting & conviction. I personally praise and thank God that our church under the leadership of Pastor Jerry together with the entire Pastoral & Administrative staff as well as the entire BCI leadership that we have already done some of these things in the past. And that our church is committed to continue to do all of them until the time comes that our young people & young adults have completely taken over the church and all its ministries in serving God.
What is even more amazing and gratifying is the fact that majority of our young people & young adults have now stepped up and in a way have adopted the church as their own actively and passionately serving in the different ministries of the church.
Let me close with the words of Jesus to his disciples which were the future generation of the church that is found in verses 14 through 16 of our passage.
14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its
stand, And it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good
deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. My challenge to all of you this morning is to let your light shine bright and empower all our young people to let theirs shine as well.
Like every generation before and after ours, deep down, we all long for Jesus. No generation is the greatest or the last hope for Christianity, because generations are not where we put our hope in. The God of the gospel is our hope. The resurrection power of Jesus is our hope. The in dwelling of the Holy Spirit is our hope. Trusting God as the sovereign ruler of the world who is at work today just as he has been in the past is what we have to cling and hang on to.